In Sewing

It’s Called Slow Fashion For Many Reasons

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If you’re a crafter on the internet no doubt you’ve heard of So Zo’s Me Made May challenge. For those who aren’t familiar, Me Made May is a month-long challenge designed to encourage people who make their own garments to actually wear and love what they’ve made, everyday, for 31 days. Though I have more than enough me-made clothing to do that, the ‘actually wear and love‘ is the part I struggle with. This year I’ve been silently participating in Me Made May, keeping a journal instead of taking daily selfies, as an effort to really reflect on what the words wear and love mean to me.

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I used to sew a lot of authentic 1940s stuff until I realized the small number of WWII reenactments I participated in at the time didn’t match the large number of rarely-worn period appropriate garments I was racking up. Then I dabbled in wearing vintage inspired outfits everyday until I decided it wasn’t particularly comfortable or practical for me personally. I’ve always been drawn to novelty print quilting cottons but having a closet full of colorfully eclectic garments that didn’t mix and match with anything left me unsatisfied, too (prime example right here).

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I’m not a total minimalist but I do get overwhelmed and anxious when surrounded by a lot of stuff. A closet full of unworn me-made “stuff” and a stash that’s too big and left dormant too long makes me feel …well, not very good. As much as I love sewing and buying new fabrics and patterns, I know I won’t feel fulfilled until I’m wearing and loving what I make on the daily. That thought has been pushing me towards planning a capsule wardrobe since I have been wearing a different version of the same thing for long enough now to know I could benefit from a seasonal capsule …but that’s a post for a different day.

My style has evolved quite a bit over the years and I’d say that’s a pretty normal occurrence for adults. I’m still very drawn to mixed prints, bold colors and my favorite quilting cottons but I suspect I’ll get more wear and love out of them as different kinds of sewing projects than in years past (I never wear any of the items below anymore!).

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Style evolution is just a different kind of self-reflection and personal growth and those are both good things. So I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions this month. If I put on something handmade and end up changing out of it I’ve been asking myself why. Do I not like this color or print on me? Too much color or print? Do I not feel comfortable in this shape? Too tight? Too loose? What am I reaching for in my dresser drawer that I’m not finding? What is my laundry hamper full of right now?

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So far my answers are: I feel like I look my brightest and my best in warm neutrals and autumn earth tones. I keep reaching for t-shirts of varying silhouettes, sometimes very loose but never too tight. My laundry basket is full of RTW casual tees in solids and stripes, and skinny jeans. I really want to sew my own jeans soon but I need more t-shirts and tops first.

Sewing a plain t-shirt can seem so underwhelming when you’re capable of crafting ridiculous (but awesome!) things like pearl snap button-ups featuring no less than three mixed prints and technicolor horses, but the satisfaction of sewing a basic wardrobe staple that can replace a store-bought equivalent has become a new thrill altogether. I want more of that.

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My goal is to one day wear me-made every single day, but I have a lot more pondering and self-reflection to face before I get there and that’s okay. It’s called Slow Fashion for many reasons and I’m enjoying the process of figuring it all out. After all, the trial and error and triumph and success and sharing and repeating that process is why this blog of mine still exists.

What me-made reflections are you figuring out this month?

xo
Rochelle

p.s. Thanks to everyone who suggested I buy a twin needle! I got one and I’m totally in love. I’ll be investing in that knit-stabilizer-hem-tape-wizardry next, but for now I don’t mind the subtle pucker “dimension” caused by sewing without it πŸ˜‰

  • Really interesting to read how your personal styles has evolved, especially liked the part about looking what’s in the laundry bag to see what you wear and like- that is really so true and it never crossed our minds. Hope you have a great slow fashion journey, we look forward to sharing it with you!

    Scandinavian casual chic slow fashion coming soon @ http://www.byem.com
    Our conscious journal @ http://www.epitomeofnow.byem.com

  • i really enjoy the direction that your blog has taken – to think about how we make things, why we make them and what we want to make is such an interesting dimension to the process/product of craft. I learned how to sew when I was a little kid, but it’s taken me decades to figure out even the slightest inkling of what I truly love to sew for myself… I feel like I am only just beginning to understand that this year. Thank you for sharing your thought process, as well as your making process!

  • Victoria Anderson

    Good thoughts here. I don’t wear much of what I sew, but I tend to blame it on my job at a doggy daycare where I need sturdy clothes I can get dirty and slobbery. However I just sewed my first pair of underwear and today was their trial run- they are winners! So I’ll soon sew up a bunch and wear something I made everyday! Most people won’t see them, but I’ll know I made them.

  • colleen

    Basically, this is the problem that most all women have. I used to have a zillion cowgirl shirts and pintuck blouses from thrift shops that I wore with old beaded sweaters (also from thrift shops) and jeans. I loved them so much. But, you’re right: I always reached for the soft (in color and touch) gray or black or plum tee and the same jeans to wear. I still do. My favorite shirt out of all the many many many things I made is a Grainline Scout made of black merino knit. I love it, wear it all year round.

    But, oh how I miss my vintage collections. Do me a favor: never got rid of that cowgirl shirt! It looks so great on you and the colors are wonderful. I wear minimal, soft clothing most of the time but sometimes I just want to be seen!!!!!

  • In the knitting world, we often talk about being a product knitter or a process knitter, although most people are a bit of both. The former is the sort of person who picks a project because they want the finish piece, and the latter is the sort of person who picks a project because the really want to do the making of it. That kind of thing doesn’t get talked about as much in the sewing world, except perhaps with costuming, but you’ve often struck me as a process sewer.

    What is it about a handmade wardrobe that’s more appealing than making the kind of projects you’re really pulled towards?

    Sometimes I feel like projects like Me Made May can make crafters competitive or try to keep up with the Jones and lose sight of what they really love about crafting. Obviously it’s best to find a good balance between what’s fun to make and fun to wear, but at the end of the day, you should make the projects that make you happiest.

    • That’s a really excellent point and I am both of a process sewer and a product sewer. The original reason why I was drawn to sewing was because I wanted to make clothes for myself. I’ve always been a garment sewer first before anything else. When I sew things and then let them sit in a bin in my closet, never seeing the light of day, that leaves me unhappy and unsatisfied. It makes me feel guilty and slightly ashamed when people ask what I do and I tell them I love sewing clothes, and then immediately follow up with “Oh but I’m not wearing anything I’ve made today”. That’s not what I want. I just need to find the right balance of mixing the prints I love with stuff I’ll actually wear. Maybe sewing a button-up in a solid fabric and then using a fun quilting cotton for the inside yoke and sleeve cuffs. I also want to do more quilting! I’ve only made two quilts and I use and love both of them a lot.

      I’ll figure it all out eventually πŸ™‚

  • I didn’t really join Me Made May as I don’t have enough that I could fit into this year, but I have been coming to the same type of realization as you over the past few years. I stopped buying the latest pattern just because it looked good on everyone else (or because there was a contest that I just had to enter!), and I really started to look at the fabrics that I was buying and the clothes I was wearing, me made and RTW. I’ve found, for me, that I wear, in both winter and summer, a small number of colours that typically coordinate (red/burgundy, blue/navy, purple, black, cream/white, grey), and I gravitate towards solids, stripes, and polka dots, which, luckily, also tend to go well together. I still buy novelty prints, but I use them for day dresses (typically my go to Cynthia Rowley 1873), and typically I only pick up the print if it will coordinate with my grey or burgundy cardigans. It has taken about three years to hone everything down to this, but I now wear everything that I sew and often…a good sign!
    Glad you have a grasp on what you look and feel best in–can’t wait to see what you sew up next (even if it is a simple t shirt!). πŸ™‚

    • That’s so awesome! It sounds like you have it all worked out and really know what works well for you πŸ™‚ Three years seems like a pretty accurate amount of time to figure out what you like and what you don’t. I’m almost to that point!

  • This is exactly how I felt with the last MMM I participated in. I used to love wearing vintage styles so made a lot of 50s inspired silhouettes. Once I had kids they weren’t very practical and it took me a little while to figure out what I like wearing and therefore what I should be sewing. I also find it is so easy in the blog world to get sucked in by a style that “everyone” is making or looks really good on someones blog you read. But I find the majority of the time once I make these things myself I realise they aren’t a style I like to wear or they don’t look as good on me. It is a slow process trying to work out exactly where your style sits especially when it changes all the time!

    • Oh man, I know how easy it is to get distracted by pretty fit-and-flare dresses and fun prints! It’s good to have a few dresses like that for special occasions, but my problem was I rarely ever found special occasions πŸ˜‰ Sitting around the house with a bunch of needy pets while wearing a fancy party dress really wasn’t working out so well for me haha!

  • I love this so much! I have been going through a sometimes painful self-growth/style change over the last couple of years. I find I’m not a true minimalist, as well, but having a closet that’s too full is very anxiety-enducing!

    I am really enjoying watching your new style growth unfold! You look stunning in these photos – so happy and pretty! (please tell me that you kept that amazing windmill button down shirt you made. I love that on you)

    • Thank you Sarah! I think everyone goes through this, I mean think of how many women just wear and buy whatever the latest seasonal trend tells them to? It seems so much deeper and personal when you sew your own clothes, and it can seem like an extra layer of pressure when you’re blogging about the process of defining your style and trying to figure it all out. Just be yourself and concentrate on what makes you feel the best! πŸ™‚

  • I really enjoyed this MMM reflection! You’re on to something, more t-shirts and jeans in the future πŸ™‚ As someone who wears them every day, I support your decision! It’s tempting to make pretty 40s inspired dresses, but if they’re always sitting in the closet then what is the point?

    • You’re totally my inspiration for jeans and tees! …and Archer shirts! I really need to make another Archer. I’ve always wanted to wear what I make (which is why I was drawn to the Colette Sewing Handbook and joining that sew-along originally) so when I make something “wearable” and never wear it, I feel like that’s a small failure!

  • I think that’s what’s so great about sewing, you can design a wardrobe that suits you! You are not limited to trends or what others think you should wear. Also if you style changes, you can always rework a garment into a totally new time. PS your me made wardrobe is always so fun, I love all your fun prints in your fabric choices. You really are a great sewing inspiration.

    • Exactly! I totally agree, that is the best part of sewing!

      p.s. thank you πŸ™‚

  • Piper Springs

    ? to you, Rochelle. You are my sewing inspiration, and I am in a similar place in my sewing journey.

    • Thanks Piper! Here’s to more sewing and figuring it all out πŸ™‚

  • I grew frustrated spending time working on a garments that never felt right. Which is why I turned to quilting. A quilt is one size fits all!

    I have to admit, I came to follow your blog because of the pearl button shirt. I saw it on Instagram and was blown away. I’m sad you don’t wear that AWESOME shirt any more. But I get it, if it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel right.

    • I’ve only made two quilts so far and each time I couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome it was to make something I really loved in sooooo many mixed prints and not have to worry about whether or not it would fit me or my “style”! I really, really should do more quilting πŸ™‚

      I really want to re-make that mustang shirt in a way that goes with more things because it’s one of my favorite sewing projects!

      • Have you every considered selling the clothes you’ve made? Because I call dibs if you ever do sell that mustang shirt πŸ˜‰

  • stella

    I answered you a few days ago, i had time, to think about twice. I May i’ve learned i don’t need much of clothes. Two Jeans, one short and a few shirts and i am perfect matched for my live. I dress every morning, and there are a bunch of things to Do. Let the chicken in the garden, watering the Garden, snoozel the cats, bring the Kids on to school, washing, dishcleaning, cheer up the house. Sometimes I take a talk to the neighbours over the garden fence.
    In my live there is much movement, so I cant dressed up in something glorious whos sparkling and shining, an dress with an petticoat …think about the Kids, the chickens, the grass stains and the fence to hang down with the lovly vintage dress. ..?
    My life is basic, and so on my clothes.
    Love your thoughts, thank you.
    Stella

    • There is nothing wrong with simple clothes to match a simple life! That’s the kind of clothing and life I want πŸ™‚

  • What I realised is that I sew mostly jeans or pants. These are the hardest for me to find in a store. I’ve had enough of trying to squeeze my size38 thighs into a 36 pant that fits real well around my ass. I also tend to sew a lot of going out clothes or winter wear… so I will try to balance my sewing in the future for all seasons.
    I too want to sew more basic clothes. Getting there one Tshirt at a time.

    • Being able to sew something that fits you better than a store bought version is THE BEST! It’s amazing how much more comfortable even a simple t-shirt is when I can add the proper shoulder adjustments I need.

  • DIY Wardrobe

    I love the way that MMM brings out these insights into the clothes we wear, and how that changes what we sew – it’s my favourite part of the challenge by far. It’s so interesting to read your thoughts on this (and Megan’s) because they chime with me too. The technicolour horses are absolutely awesome, but tricky to combine with anything else, and not something I could wear every day either. I’m on a T-shirt quest at the moment too, and I’ll be following your foray into jeans too.

    • You said it! That’s exactly why I’m eager to participate in MMM each year (even in a small kind of private way). I love really taking a hard look at where my sewing is at and narrow down a direction for future projects. It’s been a while since I’ve sewn a button-up and I’d like to re-work my mustang shirt in a way that feels more wearable for me, like maybe use the wild prints on the inside yoke, collar and cuffs instead. That way it’s a fun secret surprise for me to wear and love! πŸ™‚

      • DIY Wardrobe

        That sounds fabulous – and very, very wearable

  • Megan Parkinson

    Rochelle, such an interesting post and one I could have almost written myself! I’ve just recently realised that I don’t sew much because the things I make are things I just don’t wear on an everyday basis and aren’t that comfortable to wear even though they look great. I now work from home, so I have even less opportunity to wear these clothes.

    So I asked myself, What do I wear most? and What do I keep looking for in my wardrobe and not find? The answer is jeans and t-shirts! So I decided to sew a simple t-shirt (my last few RTW ones have been rubbish!). It looked good! It was comfortable! I wanted more! And I wanted to sew now! Basically, my sewing mojo was back, and I’ve made more things (and finished a 1950’s dress which had been hanging around unfinished for months – I hate to leave things unfinished) in a couple of weeks than I’ve made in the previous 6 months!

    Who knew the humble t-shirt could have such an effect? Actually, there are two bloggers who have also contributed greatly to this epiphany – yes, you are one of them! So thank you very much for writing your blog posts and sharing your thoughts, oh, and for the photos of Lucille – she is so gorgeous and the love you have for each other just jumps out of the photos!

    • I love this so much! How true is it that humble projects can often have the biggest impact? It’s wonderful that you’re really homing in on what works for you and your lifestyle. There’s so much satisfaction in doing that πŸ™‚ Cheers to humble sewing!

      p.s. Lucille says hello <3

      • Megan Parkinson

        Humble sewing! I like that! I do find some people just don’t ‘get’ why you would want to make yourself a t-shirt and I probably would have been in that camp until I started reading sewing blogs. But I now find it much more satisfying to regularly wear something that I’ve made (and chose it over a RTW alternative sitting next to it), than to wear something just a couple of times a year which I toiled hard over, such as a devilishly difficult 1950’s vintage Vogue dress. I love wearing the dress as well, but if someone doesn’t make a comment about how beautiful it is, I feel I’ve failed! And slightly peeved, which is silly, I know.

        I’ve also tried out two independent pattern companies patterns recently for my t-shirts and a sweatshirt, and I’m now hooked! The patterns are drafted more thoughtfully, there are only the markings you need AND they match up perfectly, plus I feel I’m supporting the sewing community and rewarding the hard work of some very talented sewers/pattern drafters.

        Um, ok, this turned out to be a lot longer “Thanks for the reply” comment than I intended, but I love being able to “talk” to people about things I’m passionate about! I think I need to get my blog resurrected again!

        p.s. Hello to Lucille too! πŸ˜€